Pence Punts on Religious Liberty: “The Courts Sort Out Those Issues…”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Earlier this week, I wrote about Mike Pence’s complicated past history on religious liberty and argued that he had two choices before him on the issue: take a strong stand or retreat back to ambiguity.

While Pence was not asked to address the topic during Tuesday’s debate, he was presented with several questions on social issues during an appearance on Dr. James Dobson’s “Family Talk” radio program yesterday. Unfortunately, Trump’s VP pick showed little willingness to defend a robust vision of religious liberty beyond a number of weak platitudes.

First, Pence was asked by Dobson how a hypothetical Trump administration would approach President Obama’s infamous contraception mandate, which has been challenged in two high-profile Supreme Court cases featuring Hobby Lobby and the Little Sisters of the Poor:

What I can tell you is that a Trump-Pence administration will be dedicated to preserving the liberties of our people, including the freedom of religion that’s enshrined in our Bill of Rights. … We have a long tradition in this country of accommodating religious belief and respecting religious belief. But under this administration, you’ve seen the heavy hand of government — whether it be in the Hobby Lobby case, or whether it be in the Little Sisters of the Poor [case] — where there’s an unwillingness by the administration to accommodate the religious sensibilities and convictions of ministries or private organizations. And the question of non-profits that you raise in this case is equally relevant.

But our administration is going to err on the side of freedom.

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WATCH: Trump Talks Religious Liberty — And Meets a Surprise Guest

Speaking on Monday at an event hosted by the Retired American Warriors PAC, Donald Trump fielded a question from a retired chaplain asking what he would do as president to halt the ongoing erosion of military members’ religious liberty. During his answer, Trump began to address the case of a Washington state high school football coach who was fired after leading pre-game prayers with his team, when — lo and behold — he discovered that the coach, Joe Kennedy, was also in attendance at the event.

After hearing the full story of Kennedy’s firing (which he called “outrageous”), Trump proceeded to remark on the importance of religious liberty and reiterated his plan to repeal the Johnson Amendment.

You can watch Trump’s full answer and read the transcript below:

…Religious liberty. Hey, it’s about religious liberty. And there has to be a melding of both. We’re living in a time where you have to have a melding of both. But it’s very unfair what they’re doing to religion in this country.

And, you know, one of the things that I’m doing, and we’re — we have the Johnson Amendment, you know what that is? Lyndon Johnson in the 1950s passed an amendment because, supposedly, he was having a hard time with a church in Houston, with a pastor. And he passed an amendment saying, basically, if you’re a pastor, if you’re a religious person, you cannot get up and talk politics. You cannot really — here’s a prime example of it. You know how strongly I feel about it.

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Will Mike Pence Defend Religious Liberty at Tonight’s VP Debate?

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

With 2016’s first and only vice presidential debate set to take place tonight, speculation has been building as to what topics will be covered once Mike Pence and Tim Kaine take the stage. While recent campaign controversies will certainly draw the headlines, it’s possible that some policy areas ignored in the first presidential debate, such as religious liberty, may make an appearance as well.

In fact, some on the left, such as the progressive Media Matters for America, are even advocating for debate moderators to query Pence on his religious liberty views, particularly given his involvement in Indiana’s RFRA controversy last year:

Before he was chosen as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s vice presidential running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence was arguably best known for the controversy over the “religious freedom” bill he signed into law in 2015. The continuing nationwide debate over “religious freedom” bills and Pence’s repeated refusal to stake out his position on anti-LGBT discrimination makes the vice presidential debate the perfect opportunity to find out where Pence really stands on so-called “religious freedom” laws.

[…]

The Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has already made it clear that he supports nondiscrimination protections for the LGBT community. The October 4 vice presidential debate gives CBS News’ Elaine Quijano the chance to ask Pence — running as part of a presidential ticket that’s attempted to appeal to LGBT voters — for a definitive answer on whether he supports “religious freedom” legislation that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people.

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Illinois Governor Sued by Pro-Lifers over Controversial Abortion Bill

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (photo credit: Steven Vance via Flickr, CC BY 2.0)

Back in August, Jon Schweppe reported on a bill being signed by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner which would force pro-life medical professionals to provide information about and referrals for abortion services, even if doing so would violate their consciences. Although Rauner, a Republican, had campaigned on having “no social issues agenda” two years ago, he willingly surrendered to the left’s anti-religious freedom agenda, betraying conservatives who had worked hard to get him elected.

It should come as no surprise then that Rauner is now facing a lawsuit from a number of crisis pregnancy centers taking issue with the fact that their conscience rights are now under assault:

Specifically, they argue the law “is a classic example of compelled speech” violating First and 14th Amendment rights, as well as speech rights guaranteed by the Illinois state constitution. They also say SB 1675 violates the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act “because it forces medical facilities and physicians … to violate their religious convictions without serving a compelling government interest in a least restrictive way, and it treats some religious beliefs more favorably than others.”

[…]

The complaint details the way in which the state’s new law directly affects the way they attempt fulfill their mission of providing alternatives to abortion — “the reasons they entered the medical profession” — specifically a clause stating: “All health care facilities shall adopt written access to care and information protocols that are designed to ensure that conscience-based objections do not cause impairment of patients’ health and that explain how conscience-based objections will be addressed in a timely manner to facilitate patient health care services.”

Referring patients to, or discussing with them, providers that “may provide surgical abortion, abortion causing drugs and devices, and contraception,” they argued, directly violates “the religious and moral beliefs and conscience” of the facilities and their staff members.

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Are Donald Trump and Republicans Getting Serious About Religious Liberty?

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Since beginning his 2016 presidential run last year, Donald Trump has not always appeared to have the strongest grasp on the issue of religious liberty. However, if his recent actions are any indication, that may be quickly changing.

Most noteworthy was a statement Trump released last week vowing to defend religious freedom as president and, particularly, to sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), backing up a pledge he made last December in a letter to the American Principles Project:

Religious liberty is enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution. It is our first liberty and provides the most important protection in that it protects our right of conscience. Activist judges and executive orders issued by Presidents who have no regard for the Constitution have put these protections in jeopardy. If I am elected president and Congress passes the First Amendment Defense Act, I will sign it to protect the deeply held religious beliefs of Catholics and the beliefs of Americans of all faiths. The Little Sisters of the Poor, or any religious order for that matter, will always have their religious liberty protected on my watch and will not have to face bullying from the government because of their religious beliefs.

These promises will no doubt be seen as a welcome development to conservative Christians unsure about Trump, and his recent comments have even won him grudging approval from one of his most ardent conservative opponents, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), FADA’s prime Senate sponsor:

Lee told National Review Online that Trump would be likely to protect religious freedom more effectively than Hillary Clinton would.

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Trump Taps Impressive Group of Pro-Life Leaders to Advise Campaign

Donald Trump (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump is certainly going the full distance in his outreach to pro-life voters.

Earlier this month, Trump announced that he would be relying on Susan B. Anthony List president (and The Pulse 2016 contributor) Marjorie Dannenfelser to head up a newly formed pro-life advisory coalition, bringing serious conservative credibility to his campaign.

Now, CBN’s David Brody has released the full makeup of that coalition, and it includes a number of impressive names:

The Brody File has learned that the Trump Campaign will announce their newly formed pro-life advisory council today.  There will be more than 30 national co-chairs including many current members of Congress and sitting governors.

It’s an all-star list but among the most notable names are Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota and plenty of other pro-life congresswomen.

[…]

All of the names on this list are well respected in the pro-life community so this move today becomes yet another sign that Trump and his campaign are serious about courting pro-life Catholics and evangelicals. Trump has the right people around him to advise him wisely on such an important subject.

You can find the full list on The Brody File website. In addition to those names mentioned above, other notable coalition members include The Pulse 2016 contributors Frank Cannon and Gary Bauer as well as RNC committeewoman and American Principles Project board member Ellen Barrosse, all of whom are prominent pro-life leaders with strong records of defending the unborn. Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood Plans to Spend Millions to Influence North Carolina Elections

Photo credit: ALL Life Defender via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Amidst the anticipation of last night’s presidential debate, USA Today reported yesterday afternoon that Planned Parenthood has announced it intends to spend “seven figures” in North Carolina to push its pro-abortion agenda in an attempt to shift close state races toward the Democrats:

Planned Parenthood Action PAC North Carolina, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes revealed Monday that they now consider North Carolina a “federal priority state” and will be spending big in hopes of electing Democrats up and down ballot.

“We’re hearing from voters every day who reject the divisive politics and policies of Donald Trump, Richard Burr and Pat McCrory — policies that jeopardize the health and well-being of families,” Deirdre Schifeling, Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Votes, told USA TODAY in an email. “Women and families must have the freedom to access the health care services they need. Any politician who stands in the way instead of standing with women and families is going to be sent packing in November.”

The investment will fund canvassing, phone banking, grassroots organizing, mail and digital ads through election day. A series of videos that target Republican Gov. Pat McCrory specifically are also being released.

We have written a number of times here at The Pulse 2016 about the importance of North Carolina and Gov. McCrory’s race in particular to the conservative movement. With Big Business, the NBA, the NCAA, and the Obama administration already attempting to punish the state for its strong stand on the transgender bathroom issue, it was probably only a matter of time before Planned Parenthood became involved as well. Continue Reading

Pence in Iowa: “Donald Trump Will Advance the Cause of Life”

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Republican vice presidential nominee Mike Pence was in Iowa this weekend where he addressed social conservatives at the annual Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition dinner. During his remarks, Pence reiterated his full confidence in Donald Trump and made the case for Trump’s candidacy as a response to the increasing threats to Americans’ fundamental liberties:

“For the sake of the sanctity of life and all of our God-given liberties, Iowa let’s ensure that the next president making appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States of America is president Donald Trump,” Pence said to a standing ovation. “In these challenging times, Donald Trump will stand for the freedoms enshrined in all of us, including the freedom of religion.”

Pence, who opened with his trademark introduction of describing himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” described Trump as a man motivated by his faith and family.

“We both come from the same place: a foundation of faith, family, and a belief in the boundless potential of the American people,” Pence said.

Pence said he thinks Trump’s candidacy has tapped into a movement that he said is “stirring across America.”

“After years of more government, more taxes and condescending attitudes toward traditional values unfurling out of Washington, D.C., toward people of faith all across Iowa and all across this country by the millions, the hinge of history is swinging in the direction of faith and freedom, and I literally see it every day,” Pence said.

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Cruz Says These Six Things Convinced Him to Support Trump

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

After Ted Cruz’s high-profile snub of Donald Trump during last July’s convention, it seemed likely that the Senator from Texas would emerge as the GOP’s chief conservative opponent of Trump as the election kicked into high gear this fall. However, with a lengthy Facebook post yesterday, Cruz surprised the political world, announcing that he would support his erstwhile rival just days before the first presidential debate.

Cruz gave two primary reasons for his apparent change of heart:

I’ve made this decision for two reasons. First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word.

Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable — that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary.

He went on to describe six key policy areas where he feels Trump represents a significant improvement over Clinton — enough so as to outweigh any qualms he might still have about Trump:

First, and most important, the Supreme Court. For anyone concerned about the Bill of Rights — free speech, religious liberty, the Second Amendment — the Court hangs in the balance. I have spent my professional career fighting before the Court to defend the Constitution. We are only one justice away from losing our most basic rights, and the next president will appoint as many as four new justices. We know, without a doubt, that every Clinton appointee would be a left-wing ideologue.

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New Polls Show Trump Needs Just One More State to Win

A new Florida poll from Suffolk University was released today showing Donald Trump with a slim, single-point lead over Hillary Clinton. But while this was only the latest poll showing a close race in the Sunshine State, it was enough to tip RealClearPolitics’ Florida polling average in the direction of Trump, who now leads by a slender 0.1-point margin. This means, going by RCP’s polling average in each state, Trump has closed to within six electoral votes of Clinton if the election were held today:

Map via RealClearPolitics.com

 

So, assuming all current polling is generally accurate, Trump still needs to see significant gains in one more state — as well as holding his leads in every current red state — in order to defeat Clinton. While this is admittedly a tall order, the electoral map does appear incredibly more favorable to Trump than it did only a month or two ago.

But which remaining blue state does Trump stand the best chance of flipping? The following are his most likely possibilities (in no particular order):

Colorado

Not long ago, media outlets were writing the obituary for the Trump campaign in Colorado, as shifting demographics appeared to put the normally purple state out of play for Republicans. However, limited polling in the state since the beginning of September has shown a narrowing race. A survey from early this month showed Clinton’s lead down from double digits to just five points, while another more recent poll from Emerson gave Trump a four-point lead. Continue Reading